Purpose Driven Joy

"That is what the Scriptures mean when they say,

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love him.”

But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets." 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (New Living Translation)

In 1981, another American missionary family, John and Lorella Rouster and their kids, joined us at Nkara-Ewa. Every adult in the missionary community was known as "Uncle" or "Aunt," even though they were not blood-related. This helped to create a sense of community among all of us who were so far away from our families in America or Europe. That warm affection we had for each other continues to be one of my fondest remembrances of missionary life in Congo.

After spending a year at the Ubangi Academy for seventh grade, I decided to stay at Nkara-Ewa and take correspondence courses again for eighth grade. With the three Rouster children--Carrie, Sharon, and John Henry--we were our very own student body. Our school was housed in a one-story mud brick building (which had been whitewashed on the inside) in one of three rooms which also contained Papa Dominic's carpenter shop and the lone classroom of Laban Bible Institute at that time. The Rouster children and Aunt Lorella joined my siblings and me in that room as we spent our mornings together absorbed in our school work. A chalkboard had been painted in the front of the room behind Aunt Lorella's desk. Papa Dominic, a master carpenter who had first been employed by my grandfather, Laban, had made six wooden desks, one for each of us children. We were all in separate grades, like stair steps, with Carrie starting at the top in ninth grade, and my brother, Todd, at the bottom step in third grade with each grade (except for fifth grade) represented in between.

(Back row: Aunt Lorella, Carrie, Sharon, Mom; middle row: John Henry, Nicol, Shawn; front row: Todd, outside our one-room school at Nkara-Ewa, 1982)

Aunt Lorella, who had been a teacher in the United States, soon started incorporating a half-hour's time in which we all recited poetry required for our schooling and sang a hymn we learned together. Every time I hear the hymn, "Faith of Our Fathers", I am immediately transported back to that one room schoolhouse where I sang the words into my memory. I really came to enjoy "Recitation," as it was formally called by all of us. I do not remember any of the poetry that I learned, but I have never forgotten one of Sharon Rouster's required poems. The words were so impacting that I asked Sharon if I could copy it down and memorize it myself. She agreed to let me. I memorized it along with her and remembered the stanzas perfectly well into my junior year of high school. After that, I could remember most of it, but some of the words started slipping away.

A few years ago, I was reading a book and turned the page. There was the poem, instantly recognized by me like an old friend. I reread what I had memorized all those years before. The impact was just as great.

His Plan for Me

When I stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ
And He shows me His plan for me,
The plan of my life as it might have been,
Had He had His way; and I see

How I blocked Him here, and I checked Him there
And I would not yield my will,
Will there be grief in my Saviour's eyes,
Grief though He loves me still?

He would have me rich, and I stand here poor,
Stripped of all but His grace,
While memory runs like a hunted thing
Down the paths I cannot retrace.

Then my desolate heart will well nigh break
With tears that I cannot shed;
I shall cover my face with my empty hands;
I shall bow my uncrowned head.

Lord, of the years that are left to me,
I give them to Thy hand;
Take me and break me, mold me to
The pattern Thou hast planned.

--Martha Snell Nicholson

I can sometimes forget that my God has a plan for me. No, not a generic, boring, and second-class plan, but my own, individual, and incredible chosen-just-for-me-by-Him plan. More than that, He has a purpose for me that is so far beyond anything I could ask or even imagine. I used to believe the lie that He had His favorites, that some people were shown His special favor because they had an inside track to Him resulting from being a "super" saint. At the time, I sure didn't feel spiritual or especially close to Him, so I assumed that I would just need to be satisfied with the crumbs from His table and look with envy on those who seemed to really be used by Him. The Word of God assures me that He is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35). He shows no favoritism, but He highly favors those hearts who are willing to live out their purpose in His purpose for them. If I am willing to love Him above all else, the plan He will unfold for me is stunning, thrilling, and better than anything I have ever seen or heard. However, I can spend this life running after what does not satisfy me and miss out on God's unique plan and purpose for me. The choice is mine. What will I have to show for this life when I stand before Him one day?

Jesus, Your purpose and plan for my life is to bring You and my heavenly Father great glory. I can so easily have my own plans which will leave me feeling useless and depressed. My joy is found in my God-ordained purpose, not in the trappings of this world. Living out Your plan for me, rather than mine, is where I will experience vibrant joy and true contentment.